Flow & Yin: A Balanced Yoga PracticeDonna Helm Yost
Year Released: 2006
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I have recently become interested in acquiring more DVDs that focus on Yin yoga, a slow style which includes long holds of poses as a means to target the connective tissues, including the ligaments and joints. There aren't many Yin DVDs available, and although I was aware of this one by instructor Donna Helm-Yost, I wasn't sure if I would be interested in the "flow" portion of the practice, as sometimes flow yoga routines can move too quickly for my liking. However, I am currently enrolled in a Yoga Teacher Training program, and so I am trying to expose myself to a greater variety of yoga techniques. Given this, I decided to try this DVD.
The Main Menu offers options for Play All - Introduction - Flow Sequence - Yin Sequence. The flow is approximately 45 minutes and the Yin 65 minutes, so the entire routine offers a lengthy session (110 minutes) that is comparable to going to a studio class. For both sequences, Helm-Yost is instructing live in front of a group of approximately eight participants of various levels. Helm-Yost sometimes demonstrates, but she mostly provides instruction (in both English and Sanskrit) as the class members perform the poses. I have provided breakdowns of the routines below. Note that throughout the routines, Helm-Yost frequently cues modifications, encouraging each user to focus on his/her own practice.
Helm-Yost has the class begin standing. She leads the group through basic breathing, a half sun salutation, and setting the intention. This is followed by several rounds of Sun Salutation A and then Sun Salutation B. Coming up to balance on the toes, she has the class come down into a toe squat. Next is a standing sequence which moves from lunge to pyramid to crescent lunge to twisting lunge. The group then returns to standing for standing hand to big toe forward bend. Moving back through toe balance and toe squat, the next standing sequence includes chair, twisting chair, and optional side crow pose. Following this, the lunge series is repeated on the second side, followed by gorilla forward bend (hands under feet). Helm-Yost then begins a balance series starting with tree pose and moving into eagle and then eagle warrior. The flow continues with Warrior B, reverse warrior, triangle, half moon, standing split, and revolved triangle, and then the entire balance sequence is repeated on the second side. Using a vinyasa to transition, the final standing pose flow includes Warrior A (1), Warrior B (2), and side angle pose. Between sides, Helm-Yost cues wide-legged standing forward bend, with the option of lifting into tripod headstand. Another vinyasa is the transition to the floor, where Helm-Yost cues dolphin pose, option to perform forearm balance. After a brief forearm plank, this practice concludes in child's pose.
Postures in this segment are held approximately 5-6 minutes (less if holding on each side). Helm-Yost directs the group right from child's pose in butterfly, which has the feet further forward and the back more curved than cobbler's pose. While holding the postures, she explains how to use optional props. Next was dragonfly, or wide-legged forward bend with relaxed toes and rounded back. This is followed by "square" pose, aka double pigeon, and then reclined Figure 4 pose (optional rock the baby). Coming to lying face-down, several variations are show for saddle pose, including cobra or sphinx. After a knee release on all fours and a few rounds of cat/cow, Helm-Yost moves into a series of poses focusing on the shoulders. This was my FAVORITE part of the practice, especially given that there is so little in Yin that focuses on the lower body. The first posture is similar to an elevated child's pose with one arm stretched overhead. Next, stretch both shoulders by keeping one arm overhead, the other twisting under the body (thread-the-needle). Then, come onto the back for a cross-leg reclined twist with one arm stretched overhead. For the final relaxation series, Helm-Yost shows how to place a bolster under the hips, either lying with the legs straight into the area or bending them to the ears for snail pose (aka deaf man's pose). A brief final relaxation in tentacle pose (shavasana) concludes this wonderful practice; Helm-Yost recommends holding this posture 5-10 minutes.
I greatly enjoyed both practices on this DVD. The flow routine was just that--a flowing sequence that moved along nicely without being fast or rushed. I loved that it included the option for more challenging postures, but I also think that it would be doable for experienced beginners who are familiar with basic standing and balance postures. (Note: the only Sanskrit that it is really necessary for users to know when doing this practice is virabhadrasana, or warrior pose--Helm-Yost uses this to cue Warrior A & B, aka Warrior 1 & 2. Otherwise, she uses MOSTLY English names for poses, such as downward dog, cobra, tree, and eagle, although she will very occasionally state the Sanskrit name as well.) The Yin practice is simply one of the best I've found on DVD so far, with the greatest variety of moves and a wonderfully relaxing sequencing. Plus, Helm-Yost offers plenty of modifications to make these postures work for everyone. Definitely a recommended yoga video!
I liked Donna. I thought that she had a calm, relaxing manner when she was teaching both the flow and the yin portions of the routine. I also found her to be very encouraging: I liked how she encouraged each student to practice at his/her own level.
Setting: Inside a studio with wood floors, plants and scarves on the wall.
The dvd is broken down into 2 different practices:
Flow Sequence: 50 minutes
Yin Sequence: 74 minutes
Both practices are beneficial for all levels of ability, as the class participants work within their own levels and show modifications as needed.
Standing at the top of the mat, you'll begin with the breath. Bring arms overhead, forward fold, breathe up to stand. Next in forward fold, holding elbows, you'll stretch your hamstrings. Interlace fingers behind your back will create space between the shoulders. Next, standing with arms overhead, you'll stretch over to each side to lengthen the side of the body. Forward fold, step back to top of pushup and hold. (this will really fire up the core) Cobra, down dog then repeat sequence. Hold down dog. This begins the sun salutation vinyasa. Donna will add on poses (such as one legged dog pose, chair, Warrior 1, etc) as you progress through the vinyasa several times. Donna does several unique poses for balance such as rising on your toes and then still on your toes you'll lower into a deep squat. Some advanced poses, head stand, crow variation, etc are demonstrated. This flow has a good balance between vinyasa, balance poses, and twists. (beg/int exercisers will need to watch the class participants who are modifying the poses that are very advanced).
Begin seated in butterfly pose. This pose will stretch your groin and inner thighs. The poses are held quite long (which I personally like), butterfly was held for 5 minutes. Moving on into dragon fly pose, relaxing the toes in this yin practice. (wide legged forward bend is another name for this) Rounding the spine helps to get into the connective tissues of the spinal column. Next up is a wonderful stretch for the hips. Donna calls it square pose or it is also referred to as double pigeon. Following is another hip opening move--you'll lie on your back and either bring your your knee to your chest or place on foot over the opposite knee and then reach between the legs and pull the leg closer to the chest. Switch sides and repeat hip stretches on other side. Return to seated position & prepare for poses that work the spine. Cobra variations are shown first. A back bend pose called saddle pose is next. (she demonstrates several variations in case you experience knee issues) Following is a gentle calf stretch to release the knee from the prior pose. Several rounds of cat/cow are next. A nice shoulder stretch is performed next. (you'll be on all 4's & push back into your hips and stretch the working arm out in front to stretch that shoulder) Then you'll take that same arm that was extended and push it under opposite arm & look to that side to deepen the stretch. A nice twist while lying on your back follows. Repeat shoulder stretch sequence/twist other side. The final pose uses bolsters. Donna suggests placing them under the hips to raise the hips up. Then you'll raise the legs straight up (modified version) or bend them over your head (in a pose she calls snail). Final relaxation finishes this deep, relaxing Yin sequence.
Donna instructs the class as the participants demonstrate the poses. Plenty of form tips are offered throughout the practice.